Dr Moncef Slaoui, head of the White House’s Operation Warp Speed, said 100 million people could be vaccinated by the end of the first quarter of 2021 after Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine received emergency use clearance from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Friday.
On Sunday, the first doses of the vaccine were trucked in from a plant in Kalamazoo, Mich., Some of them loaded onto cargo planes for delivery to sites in each U.S. state.
The Operation Warp Speed distribution manager said on Saturday that around three million doses would be shipped initially, with the first shipments arriving at 145 sites on Monday, an additional 425 sites on Tuesday and the remaining 66 sites on Wednesday.
Administration sites, usually large hospitals, had previously been selected by state and local authorities and submitted to the federal immunization program. Three million more doses are withheld so that those who receive an initial dose can receive the required second dose in the weeks to come.
If the distribution goes as planned, “we would have vaccinated 100 million people by the first quarter of 2021,” Slaoui said in an interview with Fox News on Sunday.
He added that the government hopes to have around 40 million doses of the vaccine distributed by the end of December, which would include the just licensed vaccine from Pfizer-BioNTech as well as a vaccine developed by Massachusetts-based Moderna Inc, which could receive an emergency use authorization. later this week.
Slaoui said an additional 50 to 80 million doses would be distributed in January, and the same number in February.
The White House has currently obtained 100 million doses of Pfizer-BioNTech, enough to inoculate 50 million people, but, according to the New York Times, refused to initially purchase a larger backup order, raising hopes that the government could not be able to do it. get more doses until June.
Slaoui said on Sunday that the White House “is working with Pfizer to continue helping and supporting them to achieve the goal of providing us with an additional 100 million doses in the second quarter of 2021”.
Healthcare workers and residents of nursing homes should receive the first doses, according to guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Essential workers and people over the age of 65 should be given priority next, according to the guidelines.
“Unnecessary” political pressures
Slaoui also condemned the political pressure for vaccines to be approved by the federal regulator, saying it was “not helpful, because it is not necessary” and suggesting that such actions could undermine public confidence in a vaccine.
The health official was responding to a question regarding reports that White House chief of staff Mark Meadows called Food and Drug Administration (FDA) chief Stephen Hahn on Friday to urge him to allow vaccine or possibly lose their job. Trump also tweeted on Friday, “Get the hell out of the vaccine now, Dr Hahn. ”
Slaoui said: “If this phone call happened, I think it was unnecessary and unfortunate, just like some tweets. ”
Hahn, for his part, denied the information, while refuting in an interview on Sunday Trump’s claims that the vaccine could have been approved earlier.
“We don’t think it could have been released a week earlier,” Hahn told ABC.
Slaoui also urged Americans on Sunday to keep an open mind about the vaccine following a poll by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research released last week that found only about half of Americans ready to be vaccinated.
The United States is the hardest-hit country in the world in terms of confirmed COVID-19 cases and deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. As of Sunday, more than 16 million infections were confirmed in the country, with nearly 297,000 deaths.
The country has seen an upsurge as it enters its colder months, with health officials warning that hospitals could soon be overloaded. They cautioned against violating restrictions in light of promising vaccine updates.